I had an extremely important task to perform today.
It fell to me, at the request of our Esteemed Chairman, to give the Vote of Thanks to the speaker at our U3A monthly
meeting. The subject of her talk (our speaker's, not the Esteemed Chairman, you understand) was "London Curiosities and Oddities". As I could not help joking, this might almost be an exploration of my own Family Tree, the majority of my ancestors being from
the East End of London. Indeed, Curiosities and Oddities abound on my Family Tree.
My dear Mum was born within the sound of Bow bells which made her officially a Cockney. She was extremely proud of this, even
though she was the least likely Cockney you ever met. No Pearly Queen was my mamma. Perhaps she was conflicted with her other great hankering which was to prove that Scots blood coursed through her veins. So far in my pursuit of my ancestors (both the odd
and the curious) I have been unable to find any proof of this. My mum would be immensely proud, however, that she now has descendants who can rightly claim to be Scots born and bred.
Being asked to give a
Vote of Thanks can present a problem. What to do if the speaker is dire, the content boring, the multi-media presentation colourless and dull? We have had, it has to be said, some dreadful speakers, none more so than the unfortunate fella whose trousers kept
slipping down as he was regaling us with slides that were mostly in the wrong order. We were mesmerised for all the wrong reasons. Luckily I had no such difficulty this afternoon for our speaker, a Blue Badge Guide for London no less, was superb. She even
managed to stop Mr B from dropping off for more than a few seconds at a time. Yes, I did have a sharp elbow at the ready.
We arrived at the hall a lot later than usual, on account of the fact that I had been
out all morning, only returning home in time to rustle up a quick egg on toast lunch before we set off for the meeting. Mr B, as a result, was not a Happy Bunny. He was, he told everyone who was prepared to listen (and quite a few who were not) out of his
Comfort Zone. It is my fault that he is talking about comfort zones as I once used the expression in a discussion about happiness. I did not expect to have my words played back to me quite so effectively. Or so soon.
Because we were late we couldn't immediately find two free seats but Phil the Caretaker came to our rescue, wheeling in reinforcements so that we - and everyone else who had arrived on time, rather than half an hour early like the majority of the membership
- could be seated. I trotted off to the kitchen to fetch us a cup of coffee each and was delighted beyond measure to find that, along with the ginger nuts, we could also help ourselves to a cheese straw. Refreshments at monthly meetings have definitely stepped
up since my friend Shirley took over as Catering Supremo. If a cheese straw couldn't lift Mr B's mood, then nothing could. He was, indeed, somewhat mollified.
What I loved about our speaker were her
anecdotes about the history of London and the sights we can still see in evidence of a Fascinating Past. She started with a photo of a pets cemetery in a little known quarter of Hyde Park. Might there be within, she asked with a twinkle in her eye, a stone
engraved: "To Fido, who was so much more faithful than my husband"?
She repeated advice once given me by a friend and Conservation Officer - always look up at old buildings. At ground level you might see nothing
more exciting than a shop front, but look up and an architectural gem may be right above you. It's excellent advice.
She showed us a couple of photos of shacks erected to shelter hansom cab drivers in the
days when horse power was provided by real, live horses. Eleven of these structures can be seen in London today and they are still reserved for the use of London black cab drivers. I must ask my Son in Law, a London cabbie with All The Knowledge, if he has
ever taken refuge in one.
Mr B was in a much better mood as we drove home. He suggested we order a takeaway curry for dinner so that I didn't have to cook. The suggestion chimed perfectly with our New Year's
Resolution to make life easier for ourselves. I'm glad he is back in his comfort zone but the credit is not mine.
I rather think another Vote of Thanks is called for - let's hear it for Phil the caretaker
and Shirley's cheese straws.